Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Waiting To Inhale
At the end of this month, Situationists are playing with Hot Club de Paris at Flux at the Yardbird, Birmingham. Flux is always a good night, always has well-considered bills, always accommodating and always DJ-ing our songs between sets. I like these people. I like their taste (it's called self-obsession, thank you). I even like the way Birmingham pours grey across grey in a desperate attempt to turn that "2" into a "1". And there's a few great bands helping turn some eyes the wrong way of the capital - Johnny Foreigner, Calories, Shocked Elevator Family, Bee Stung Lips.
But I'm digressing a little here (mainly as I wanted to mention those bands), because Hot Club de Paris should NOT be playing a venue as small as the Yardbird. Their debut album was, so I've been unofficially told, the biggest selling album on Moshi Moshi, and Moshi Moshi is a great label with some relatively successful acts. But you'd be forgiven for not knowing that their sophomore effort, Live At Dead Lake, has been out for nearly two months now. It's been pretty much ignored in most corners of the press, save the odd token review. Where are the interviews? Why aren't they charging out of the radio like idiots at a Next sale? Why haven't Drowned In Sound fallen over themselves trying to get them to write a tour diary? They're the perfect DiS band too. I'm mystified, like INXS.
So, what's going on? Maybe it's a shit record, right? Well, maybe you're a shit record. I've enjoyed few albums this year as much as Live At Dead Lake. At times, their debut left me cold, ambition not quite matching execution, a little too busy where I'd prefer they let one of the numerous riffs stick around long enough for me to be able to acknowledge its existence. But LADL is different. It fuses their more esoteric leanings - math-y, busy, ironic song titles, Minutemen - but remembers that pop music is the best medium for communication. There's no real verses here, no conduits to pay off, no filler. Just chorus after different chorus even if technically that makes no sense.
Most beautifully of all, they've something to say. Thoughtful, deeply parochial and often cryptic lyrics that some how possess a universal appeal are a rare commodity, but they're laced throughout here. They assume an implicit intelligence in their audience. "This Thing Forever Seems To Last Forever" is as near a perfect guitar song as I've heard since I last listened to Talking Heads. And the comparison is fair I think, because they've the same way of shifting the mundane into the fantastic, into the absurd and fashioning the utterly perfect encapsulation of what it is to be stupid, to be smart, to be confused and clear sighted and not even know the difference. The world is pretty fucking weird. People are pretty fucking weird. Pop music, at it's best, should reflect that and Hot Club do so with their spazzy riffs, sea shanty sing-a-long multi-part harmonies and funny weird/funny ha ha words. I guess Hot Club are pretty fucking weird too, but doesn't that make them the perfect pop band?
Intelligence and mass appeal are not mutually exclusive. In fact, their marriage should be the model, the ultimate artistic aspiration. And lots of great bands have achieved it - New Pop was predicated on that very idea. But then again, maybe I'm romanticising the popular. I'm looking for that 'prole art threat', in fact, I'm assuming it exists. And I'm also assuming that people want it. That Hot Club de Paris aren't the biggest band of their type in this country, or at least somewhere on their way to becoming it, means I'm probably a little naive and I'm also probably valuing my own opinion a little highly but... People aren't tricked by the media. Passive consumption is an out-dated concept*. We know what we want and we buy accordingly. We're an active audience. Not so much choosing freely, but free to choose, right? So stop making the wrong choices, please. Sometimes mark makers don't quite make the mark they should on the world...
*I'm putting a simplistic gloss on a more complex argument here, but I'd prefer to keep the anti-intellectual ZZZs to a minimum here.